Railway Budget 2013: Focus on Better and Safer Facilities
Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal presented the Railway Budget 2013-14 in the Parliament putting all speculations into rest over fare hike. Bansal stressed on better, safer facilities and financial stabilities announcing the reforms and measures in Lok Sabha today. All the measures will be taken targeting the general elections scheduled next year.
For the first time Congress prepared the ‘populist’ budget of Rs. 5.19 lakh crore in 17 years under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party President Sonia Gandhi keeping the elections in mind. The reforms, which would be brought in the department, would of course benefit the passengers.
Bansal admitted that many important projects are not being financed on time and Railways’ freight loading traffic scaled down by 100 million tonnes from 1025 million tonnes because of economic slowdown. The railways should provide value for money and it should be financially sustainable. However, he told the House that there has been a significant reduction in accidents. He assured that his department will work towards a zero accident situation.
Even though, the number of passenger trains has increased from 8000 in 2001 to over 12000 in 2012, losses have also increased and there has been a steep rise in input costs. Losses are estimated to be around Rs 24000 crore in 2012-13, but he is committed to bring reforms in the department providing safe and comfortable travel to the passengers. He announced that Rs 9000 crore investments out of which Rs 3,800 crore will be spent for port connectivity and Rs 800 crore for iron ore mines connectivity. He hoped Railways will end 2013-14 with a balance of Rs 12,506 crore.
For the first time, the government introduced Toll free number to provide information and passengers can also complain or suggest by dialing that number. Maximum packages were announced for Rae Bareli and Delhi/NCR ignoring many parts particularly small cities of the country.
While Congress leader Salman Khurshid termed it a principled budget, BJP’s Gopinath Munde said it a Rae Bareli budget.
Some of the measures taken/suggested for better and safer facilities are follows:
1. Additional Rail Neer mineral water bottling plants will be set up.
2. Railways to provide free Wi-Fi on selected trains.
3. 179 escalators, 400 lifts to be operational at key stations, mechanised laundry cleaning facility
4. More RPF guards, special trains in metros for women and helpline number to be implemented.
5. Special coaches called ‘Anubhuti’ with luxurious services in selected trains.
6. New coaches with anti-climb features need to be developed
7. UID-Aadhar to be used for ticketing, reservation as well as managing and monitoring staff payrolls, pensions etc
8. SMS alert to passengers on reservation status to be rolled out shortly
9. By the end of the year, next-generation e-ticketing technology to be rolled out. The system will be for 7200 tickets per minute instead of the present 2000
10. Internet booking hours to be increased from 12.30 am to 11.30pm
11. E-ticketing will be now available through mobile phones
12. Toll free number – 1800111321 – for complaints and suggestions
13. Good, hygiene food would be provided to the passengers. Labs to test food provided in trains. ISO certification for all rail kitchens
14. Advance fraud control will be used for ticket sale
15. Identification of 104 stations for upgradation which will benefit more than one million population. Stations in religious places will be upgraded for better facilities.
16. Azadi Express a new train which will bring a tourist to all important places connected with the freedom movement. Fares to be subsidised
17. Wheelchair-friendly compartments and, similar arrangements at the stations
18. Rs. 100 crore to be spent to augment facilities at Delhi, New Delhi and Nizamuddin railway stations
19. Special attention to stations in NCR.
20. Elimination of over 10,000 level crossings, guest lounges in selected stations. Executive Lounge at New Delhi and seven more stations such as Bilaspur, Visakhapatnam, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru.
21. Launching a multi-modal travel package with cooperation of State Government of Jammu & Kashmir enabling passengers to travel from Jammu through Udhampur, Qazigund to Srinagar and Baramulla on a common rail-bus ticket
22. Proposal for a Railway line to Katra. Feasibility of issuing ‘yatra parchis’ to pilgrims travelling by rail at the time of booking of the railway ticket is being explored in coordination with Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.
23. 17 bridges sanctioned for rehabilitation
24. Enhancement of the track capacity and the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS)
25. Investment of Rs. 3800 crore for port connectivity projects
26. Target of Rs. 1000 crore each for Indian Railways Land Development Authority and Indian Railways Station Development authority
27. New rail lines in the North-East: in Manipur, Arunachal and Assam
28. New coach manufacturing and maintenance facilities to be set up in various places including Rae Bareli, Bhilwara, Sonepat, Kalahandi, Kolar, Palakkad and Pratapgarh. (Coach factory at Rae Bareilly, greenfield emu coach factory at Bhilwara Rajasthan, coach factory at Sonepat, coach factory at Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, wagon maintainance unit at Kalahandi, Odisha)
29. Investments for green energy, investment in wind energy and solar energy
30. Common rail-bus ticket to be introduced for Katra-Vaishnodevi pilgrims
31. The 1.2 lakh vacancies to be filled this year
32. Investment of Rs. 3800 crore for port connectivity projects
33. Target of Rs. 1000 crore each for Indian Railways Land Development Authority and Indian Railways Station Development authority
34. Indian Institute of Railway Financial Management to be set up in Secunderabad
35. Five fellowships to be announced to motivate students
36. Multi-purpose training institute to be set up at Nagpur
37. The skill development programme in railway related trades in 25 locations: Agartala, Alwar, Ankleshwar, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Dimapur, Imphal, Jagdalpur, Jais, Katihar, Kazipet, Kollam, Koraput, Lumding, Mangalore, Murshidabad, Nagpur, Naharlagun, Pathankot, Ranchi, Ratlam, Shimla, Sirsa, Srinagar and Tiruchchirappalli.
38. Indian Railways set to enter the one-billion tonne freight club
39. Target of Rs. 4,000 crore for railway production units in 2014
40. A target of Rs 4,500 crore for special drive during the year to take up disposal of scrap lying in stores depots, workshops, along the tracks and at construction sites
41. The department Will provide better living conditions for Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel
42. Rs 300 crore to be spent for staff quarters
43. Provision of hostel facilities for single women railway employees at all Divisional headquarters
44. Extending the treatment facility in case of medical emergency to RELHS beneficiaries to all cities where hospitals are empanelled either with CGHS or with Railways
45. Mountain rails in India to be given fresh attention, will be on the lines of trains in the Austrian and Swiss Alps
46. Gallantry medal winners’ parents to get complimentary travel passes on railways
47. Freedom fighters have to renew railway passes once in three years
48. Concessional travel for sports persons, parents of posthumously decorated soldiers
49. Gross traffic receipts for 2013-14 estimated at Rs 1.44 lakh crore; increase in passengers estimated to be by 5.2 per cent.
50. Railways to set up a Debt Service Fund
51. Marginal hike in freight charges, no hike in passenger fares
52. Freight earning to grow by nine per cent to Rs 93,554 crore
53. Superfast charges and Tatkal fees to be hiked
54. 67 new Express trains to be introduced
55. 58 train routes to be extended
56. 27 new passenger trains proposed
57. Dynamic fuel adjustment component to be introduced on freight rates from April 1. It will result in less than five per cent increase in rates